A Single Rose. Short Story.

So, the exam went well, I hope. I’m done now. It’s strange. I didn’t really feel what I expected to feel.

I’m going out tomorrow night so that might kick-start some feelings, maybe it will be Saturday. I don’t really know. Maybe it just hasn’t really hit me. It feels strange. Kinda unreal. Oh well, I’ll get there eventually!
On with the show!

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A Single Rose. Short Story.

She looked at the rose, it sat in a vase on the small table. Reaching out, Beth plucked it from the container and brought it close to her face. She never understood the connection with roses and love. She put her nose close to the flower and breathed deeply. There, a faint smell, not unpleasant, but not alluring either. The petals looked as though they were made from red velvet, it was a perfect rose, so perfect it seemed to be fake. She ran her finger along the stem, once it held barbs with which to sting and prick, but now it was stripped of its weapons, rendered impotent with a few quick snips. Maybe that was the lesson roses brought, something that is beautiful on the surface can still cause pain underneath. Maybe it was the ephemeral nature of roses that appealed to people. They would, like love, wither and die. On the surface it would look fine, still hold its charming veneer, but under the surface, it was dying. Slowly and surely. The flower would sicken, its leaves would begin to fall, but it had died long before. She placed the rose back into the vase and used her sleeve to wipe away the few drops of water that had fallen to the table. It was supposed to be a nice gesture, and in its own way it was. She enjoyed roses, but from a distance, she could admire the bouquets of deep, dark red and be happy for those receiving them, but she never enjoyed them herself. She preferred flowers that exploded with colour, a rose or two in a bouquet was perfectly acceptable, but she never liked it to be assembled of roses and nothing more.

Really, the rose was just one of his apologies, and, like the rose his memory of the event would wither and die until it faded from existence completely. She would probably forget too, but she wouldn’t forget the trend. Their arguments were happening more and more, and just like this rose, their relationship was dying. They just didn’t want to admit it. Well. He didn’t want to admit it. He was the one starting the arguments, the one refusing to change, to try and improve himself. She had done everything for him, joined him in his hobbies when he asked, cut back on habits he found annoying, cooked for him, cleaned, showered him with affection. Yet he still refused to do simple things for her, he wouldn’t help in the kitchen when she asked, only after frequent requests would he drag himself into the kitchen, do whatever task she wanted done, then disappear as soon as it was finished. She understood he wasn’t a big fan of cooking, but it needed to be done. She didn’t enjoy doing the dishes, or mopping the floors, but she still did it. She was again glad she hadn’t accepted his invitation to move in together. It wouldn’t have went well. He was clean and tidy in his own apartment, but never in hers. It was like he figured she was there and she did it anyway, why should he help?

The rose seemed to be mocking her. Sitting there in its perfect glory, reminding her of the flaws she held. She picked it up gingerly, unconsciously wary of barbs, and began to pluck the leaves from it. One by one they floated to the table until there was nothing left but the naked head. Taking the stem, she went to the drawer and found a scissors, in five quick and brutal slices, it was gone. All of it. She swept the stem off the table and threw it in the bin, then she looked at the petals. Those damn petals. Even off the rose they looked perfect. She gathered them into a pile and threw them away. She felt a little better with that done. She was alone now, alone with her thoughts. No reminders to guilt her into doing something she didn’t want to do. He wasn’t very sentimental, so there were never many gifts given. At first it seemed insulting, offensive, but now she was thankful. It was one less thing to worry about. They spent the night in each others place frequently, yet very little of their items crossed over, each bringing an overnight bag with a few days of clothes. It seemed easier somehow, less real, held less significance. They weren’t living together, or even moving in together, they were just having sleepovers, like when they were children, bundled off to a friends house and looking forward to a night filled with promise and excitement. Their styles didn’t match either. That was the first thing she noticed when she entered his apartment. It was cold. So very, very cold and sterile. Everything was sleek and white and looked as though no one had ever lived there. Like a museum, with circling guards to occasionally cough and admonish those that dared touch anything. Her apartment was warm and welcoming, cosy with that lived in feel. God help them if they ever bought a house together. He didn’t mind the warm look, but he would insist on modern décor, just because. She couldn’t stand everything being white and sleek and minimalist. She understood that function was important, but there had to be a balance.

The table looked forlorn with its empty vase and, feeling slightly guilty now, she picked it up and emptied it of water. Once it was drained she put it in the cupboard. He was coming over tonight. What would she say if he asked about it? Not that he’d notice anyway. She could say Samantha took it when she was here. He hated her anyway. He hated all her friends really. But then, she didn’t like most of his either. They were just floating along, probably because they were used to it. It was easy. It was what they’d always known. But that wasn’t reason enough to stay, was it?

She was supposed to make dinner for them, but the effort of that now seemed immense, after all, what was the point if he didn’t enjoy it, she didn’t know if he did or not, he never gave any input. She’d just order takeaway. Chinese. That’s what she wanted. He wasn’t a fan but fuck him, it was her house. He owed her for their last argument. It was quite terrifying, she had half expected him to hit her and shamefully, half hoped he would. That would give her an excuse to leave. She could be gone and it would be his fault, she wouldn’t be the bad guy. When she cooled off a little, she realised how much she was goading him, how much she was trying to push him just that little bit further until he fell over the edge of reason and into a pit of blind fury. It had scared her, that she could be like that. So sneaky and conniving without even being aware of it. It would be better if they just broke up. Agree to go their own separate ways, live their lives, find other people. It would be better.

It always happened the same way, she would start to say something, then remember the good times, like the time they stayed up all night, slightly drunk on wine, just talking, watching the sun rise, then spending the day together in bed, alternately dozing and talking. That safe, lazy talking you can do in bed, where everything can be discussed openly and without judgement. Or the time he tried to cook dinner for her and failed miserably, burning everything beyond recognition. He tried, he really did. They ended up going to a restaurant, snagging the last free table and staying until the place closed for the night. There were good times, and they outweigh the bad. At least they did for the moment. How long until it got too much for her? How long until there was no good, the good was just a distant memory of vague contentment drowned out by the screaming of a thousand horrific fights. How long could she live like that? It would be better if they just broke up. It really would. But she knew it wouldn’t happen. Not yet. Not now. Maybe in a few days or a few weeks or a few years. But it wouldn’t be tonight. It wouldn’t be her fault. It couldn’t be her fault. He’d walk in the door with that half smile and kiss her and they’d sit down to dinner and she’d try to bring it up a hundred different ways, but each time she’d change her mind at the last second and fall back on a thought she didn’t even know she had prepared. They’d continue onwards, slowly and surely until the very, very end.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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